Checkmate: Over 250 Pasadena ISD Students Enjoy a Battle of the Minds at Chess Championship

Checkmate: Over 250 Pasadena ISD Students Enjoy a Battle of the Minds at Chess Championship
Posted on 05/08/2015
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One could barely hear a peep inside the cafeteria at Beverly Hills Intermediate where students, parents and volunteers gathered for the Pasadena ISD fifth annual Chess Championship.

The event attracted an-all time high of 257 students from 32 campuses in the district and one campus from Deer Park ISD.

The championship was divided into four separate divisions including elementary (grades 3 and 4), middle (grades 5 and 6), intermediate (grades 7 and 8) and high school (grades 9-12). Each contestant played five games per round and received one point for each win and a half-point for a draw.

The following students won first place in their divisions: Frazier Elementary fourth graders Dylan Campos, Marcus Kemp and Silas Tobias; Shaw Middle fifth graders Eduardo Vargas and Nestor Zacarias; San Jacinto Intermediate seventh grader David Hoang and Bonnette Jr. High eighth grader Darrien Kramer; Lewis Career and Technical High School tenth grader John Cruz.

The silence was broken when event organizers announced all first, second and third place winners in front of proud parents and staff who filled the room with applause and cheer.

The district’s chess program has evolved since its inception back in 2010. The first competition began with only 20 students. Chess coordinator James Early said that number increased drastically over time due to the leadership of district administrators and the introduction of the First Move program, in which second and third grade students learn the basic fundamentals of chess at school.

“Leslie Axel, our district Gifted and Talented coordinator, brought many years of organizational experience to the program,” Early said. “Her excellent leadership skills have allowed me to focus on helping our campus chess coaches teach students. I also want to thank Deputy Superintendent Karen Hickman for the success of this program. She has supported our chess program in a variety of ways, including providing funding for the competitions.”

The First Move chess program began at 20 campuses in the district, and has extended to nearly all elementary campuses in the district. In 2011-12, there were chess clubs at five middle, three intermediate and three high schools. Now, the program has spread to 15 elementary, seven middle, all 10 intermediate, and five high schools.

“It has proved invaluable in stirring up interest and knowledge of chess among students of all age groups,” Early said.

Students who begin playing chess at an early age develop skills that can be used in school and throughout adulthood, Early said. Studies have shown that students who play chess regularly excel in school and perform better on standardized tests than students who do not play chess.

“Students gain a host of skills including problem solving skills, enhanced reading, memory, language, and mathematical abilities; improved critical, creative, and original thinking skills; and better spatial and visual memory. In addition, students gain an increased ability to focus, visualize possibilities, think ahead, plan, weigh options, analyze concretely, think abstractly, and juggle multiple considerations simultaneously," Early said. "They also learn that poor choices often bring about serious consequences.”

“In addition, chess teaches sportsmanship—how to win and lose graciously and to not give up when behind,” he continued. “Chess also serves as a bridge, bringing together children of different demographics in an activity they can all enjoy. Finally, chess teaches the value of hard work, concentration, objectivity, and commitment. This gives students – who may not be able to participate in athletics, fine arts, or other traditional competitive endeavors – a chance to shine.”

High School First Place
Chess Championship 2015John Cruz, Lewis Career and Technical High School

High School Second PlaceChess Championship 2015David Escalera, Pasadena; Lee Hernandez, Pasadena

High School Third Place
Chess Championship 2015Front: Alfredo Dominguez, Pasadena; Samuel Salinas, Pasadena.
Back: Alexis Trevino, Pasadena; Hector Carrillo, Pasadena; Luis Garcia, Pasadena; Joseph Tran, Dobie; Derek Nguyen, Dobie. Not Pictured: Chandler Bui, Lewis Career and Technical High School

Intermediate First PlaceChess Championship 2015
David Hoang, San Jacinto; Darrien Kramer, Bonnette Jr. High (Deer Park)

Intermediate Second Place
Intermediate First PlaceTimmy Phan, Beverly Hills; Allan Diaz, Beverly Hills; Julio Espinoza, Southmore; Tanner Vega, Beverly Hills; Victor Vargas, Southmore; Raymond Ulloa, Beverly Hills.

Intermediate Third PlaceIntermediate First PlaceFront: Lee Chavez, Southmore; Eloy Sanchez, Thompson; Kobe Thompson, Thompson. Back: Victor Falcon, Southmore; Son Truong, Thompson; Sophia Colmenares, Thompson; Enoc Curiel, Thompson; Darin Pulido, BHI; Tin Ly, Beverly Hills; Minh To, Beverly Hills

Middle First Place
Chess Championship 2015Chess Championship 2015
Eduardo Vargas, Shaw; Nestor Zacarias, Shaw

Middle Second Place

Chess Championship 2015Andrew Diaz, De Zavala; Nathan Sandoval, Milstead; Stephen Garza, Williams; Nathan Lopez, Melillo. Not Pictured: Michael Cortez, Shaw; Blake Danner, Lomax; Adam Espinoza, Shaw; Patrick Ortega, Morris; Gilberto Rojas, Shaw; Jose Ruiz, Queens.

Middle Third Place
Chess Championship 2015
Emmanuel Cuevas, De Zavala; Andrew Vasquez, Milstead; Zachary Glover, Morris; Morgan Grays, Milstead. Not Pictured:Enrique Escamilla, Queens; Matthew Mendiola, Melillo.

Elementary First PlaceChess Championship 2015Dylan Campos, Frazier; Marcus Kemp; Frazier

Elementary First Place
Chess Championship 2015
Silas Tobias, Frazier

Elementary Second Place
Chess Championship 2015Christian Harvey, Frazier

Elementary Third PlaceChess Championship 2015Bella Cisneros, Frazier; Eber Cuevas, Williams; Dillon McBee, Golden Acres; Devin Vazquez, Gardens; Chris Flores, South Shaver; Gustavo Escamilla, Williams; Hector Balandran, South Shaver. Not Pictured: Juan Fuentes; South Houston







Elementary (3-4)

1 (Tie)

Dylan Campos




Marcus Kemp




Silas Tobias





Christian Harvey




3 (Tie)

Hector Balandran

South Shaver



Bella Cisneros